Speaking at the Disabled People’s Annual Summit today, Minister for Social Security Jeane Freeman MSP announced that the Access to Elected Office Fund (Scotland), currently running as a one year pilot delivered by Inclusion Scotland, will be continued until the next Scottish Parliament elections, in 2021.
The Fund provides advice, support and financial assistance to disabled people seeking to become elected representatives, to address additional barriers that they would otherwise face in campaigning. This can include paying for communication support, addressing higher transport costs faced by those with mobility impairments or fatiguing conditions, providing adaptive technology or software, and anything else that levels the playing field for a disabled candidate.
The £200,000 pilot fund recently made its first round of awards to disabled candidates seeking election in the 2017 Local Authority elections, with award budgets ranging from £580 to £26,718. Award recipients are standing for a range of political parties or as independents across Scotland. The funds may only be used to address additional costs and adjustments to reduce access barriers and cannot be used for general campaigning purposes. Funding awards are being approved anonymously by an independent Decision Panel of disabled people with expertise and experience in access issues, making adjustments and political campaigning.
The announcement came as part of the launch of the Scottish Government’s “Disability Delivery Plan” in response to the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Disabled People (UNCRPD). The news was also welcomed by the One in Five Campaign, who had played a key role in pushing for the introduction of the pilot:
Commenting on the extension of the Access to Elected Office Fund, Jamie Szymkowiak, from One in Five, said:
“The Scottish Government’s decision to continue the Access to Elected Fund (Scotland) for the Scottish Parliament elections in 2021 is fantastic news. An early announcement confirming financial support for aspiring disabled politicians is exactly what we at One in Five were calling for. Safe in the knowledge that the financial barrier to elected office has been removed, this early commitment provides disabled people with plenty of time to develop in to political representatives of the future.”
The relevant section of the Plan reads:
We are determined to increase representation of disabled people in our democratic institutions. Our Access to Elected Office Fund (Scotland) is supporting those who wish to stand in the 2017 local government election by helping to meet additional costs disabled people face when seeking election. We will use the evaluation of the 2017 fund to make any necessary adjustments to ensure it works for disabled people and will continue this fund for the Scottish Parliamentary elections in 2021.